Several Castor town councillors questioned their chief administrative officer (CAO) over money spent on walking paths in municipal parks.
The discussion took place at the June 13 regular meeting of council.
Coun. Brenda Wismer was absent from the meeting.
On the agenda was an item entitled parks update which, according to CAO Christopher Robblee, was placed there on council request for the purpose of updating the council on the progress of municipal park upgrades.
Robblee stated the park plan had been completed in 2021 and had been presented to councillors at a previous meeting for their acceptance, although he noted that was prior to last fall’s municipal election. The previous council made the park plan a priority and it was noted staff needed to find some funding.
Robblee reported he did find about $150,000 in grant funding for the park plan, specifically for the park trails, including Pal’s Park and the dog park.
The CAO explained while the $150,000 grant would cover upgrades for walking paths at the two parks, it included a requirement that the town was required to pay $30,000 for preparation work, including some ground work.
Robblee also stated that the staff can’t really change the scope of the project or the grant funding could be in jeopardy. He also pointed out two contractors have agreed to do some of the work for free.
The CAO also noted it’s up to council to decide what else in the park plan is actually done, while the staff recommendation was to complete the trails.
As council discussed the issue both councillors Kevin McDougall and Cecil Yates stated they felt council had never given permission to spend $30,000 on the ground work.
Robblee responded it was his understanding council had instructed staff through a resolution to go ahead with the walking paths project, which required the $30,000 in prep work to access the $150,000 grant to complete the project.
Mayor Richard Elhard stated he didn’t see a problem with spending money if the grant was that large.
“When we get 150 grand, I say jump on it,” said the mayor.
During discussion councillors noted they felt they should have more input into what is done in the park project, especially if funds were going to be spent. It was also stated that the project includes both existing walking trails and new ones.
The CAO noted his instructions also be that grant funding would be found for the park project’s future sections and as that is accomplished it would be brought back to councillors for their approval.
Councillors also discussed the fact they’ve heard positive feedback in the community regarding the park upgrades.
Robblee added that work on the trails is scheduled to begin the first week of August.
As the discussion went on, councillors voiced concern that the park plan could include something like a new gazebo, despite the fact that Pal’s Park already has a gazebo and it’s seldom used.
Councillors agreed that the $30,000 for preparation work would stand, but in the future anymore work on the park plan would come back to the council table for discussion.
Local Journalism Initiative reporter